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Five more reasons to work at Gartner with me

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Five reasons you should work at Gartner with me“. Well, we’re recruiting again for an analyst to replace Aneel Lakhani, who is sadly leaving us to go to a start-up. While this analyst role isn’t part of my team, I expect that this is someone that I’ll work closely with, so I have a vested interest in seeing a great person get the job.

Check out the formal job posting. This analyst will cover cloud management products and services, including cloud management platforms (like OpenStack).

All of five reasons that I previously cited for working at Gartner remain true:

  1. It is an unbeatably interesting job for people who thrive on input.
  2. You get to help people in bite-sized chunks.
  3. You get to work with great colleagues.
  4. Your work is self-directed.
  5. We don’t do any pay-to-play.

(See my previous post for the details.)

However, I want to make a particular appeal to women. I know that becoming an industry analyst is an unusual career path that many people have never thought about, and I expect that a lot of women who might find that the job suits them have no idea what working at Gartner is like. While we have a lot of women in the analyst ranks, the dearth of women in technology in general means that we see fewer female candidates for analyst roles.

So, here are five more good reasons why you, a woman, might want a job as a Gartner analyst.

1. We have a lot of women in very senior, very visible analyst roles, along with a lot of women in management. We are far more gender-balanced than you normally see in a technology company. That means that you are just a person, rather than being treated like you’re somehow a representative of women in general and adrift in a sea of men. Your colleagues are never going to dismiss your opinions as somehow lesser because you represent a “woman’s point of view”. Nor are people going to expect a woman to be note-taking or performing admin tasks. And because there are plenty of women, company social activities aren’t male-centric. There are women at all levels of the analyst organization, including at the top levels. That also means there’s an abundance of female mentors, if that matters to you.

2. The traits that might make you termed “too aggressive” are valued in analysts. Traits that are usually considered positive in men — assertive, authoritative, highly confident, direct, with strong opinions — can be perceived as too aggressive in women, which potentially creates problems for those types of women in the workplace. But this is precisely what we’re looking for in analysts (coupled with empathy, being a good communicator, and so on). Clients talk to analysts because they expect us to hold opinions and defend them well.

3. You are shielded from most misogyny in the tech world. You may get the rare social media interaction where someone will throw out a random misogynistic comment, but our analysts aren’t normally subject to bad behavior. You will still get the occasional client who believes you must not be technical because you’re a woman, or doesn’t want a woman telling him what to do, but really, that’s their problem, not yours. Our own internal culture is highly professional; there are lots of strong personalities, but people are normally mature and even-keeled. Our conferences are extremely professionally run, and that means we also hold attendees and sponsors to standards that don’t allow them to engage in women-marginalizing shenanigans.

4. You will use both technical and non-technical skills, and have a real impact. While technical knowledge is critical, and experience beings hands-on technical is extremely useful, it’s simply one aspect of the skillset; communication and other “soft” skills, and an understanding of business strategy and sales and marketing, are also important. Also, the things you do have real impact for our clients, and potentially can shape the industry; if you like your work to have meaning, you’ll certainly find that here.

5. This is a flexible-hours, work-from-anywhere job. This has the potential to be a family-friendly lifestyle. However, I would caution that “work from anywhere” can include a lot of travel, “flexible hours” means that you can end up working all the time (especially because we have clients around the globe and your flexibility needs to include early-morning and late-evening availability), and covering a hot topic is often a very intense job. You have to be good at setting boundaries for how much you work.

(By the way, for this role, the two analysts who cover IT operations management tools most closely, and whose team you would work on, are both women — Donna Scott and Ronni Colville — and both VP Distinguished Analysts, at the very top of our analyst ranks.)

Please feel free to get in contact privately if you’re interested (email preferable, LinkedIn okay as well), regardless of your gender!

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Corporate culture and women in IT

So, I want to start this blog post by stressing that, like all of my posts, according to Gartner’s policies, it is strictly personal opinion. But I feel like this issue is important, and that I can say something constructive in the conversation around the role of women in technology and the culture of technology as it relates to women.

Last month, Dell held a customer and partner summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. During that event, keynoted by CEO Michael Dell, “entertainer” Mads Christensen delivered a set of comments throughout the afternoon that began with, “The IT business is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out. The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy,” (and asking the women, “What are you actually doing here?”) and ended with telling all the men in the room to promise him they’ll go home and say, “Shut up, b*tch!”

Journalist Christiane Vejlo live-tweeted and blogged the event, and it’s since started something of a growing firestorm on the Internet. Dell acknowledged in a tweet that the remarks were “inappropriate”, and today has issued an apology — in the relatively private confines of Google+.

I find the entire incident to be appalling. I’ve attended conferences in Copenhagen in the past, and indeed, all over the world. I cannot imagine another global technology company which would have scheduled this speaker for an event. (VMworld Europe is in Copenhagen. Can you imagine VMware hiring that guy to entertain?) I’m somewhat surprised they actually allowed him to continue speaking once it was clear that he was going to be offensive — or for that matter, not issuing an official apology from the stage at the time, or even stopping the “show” early. These are not borderline-offensive remarks. These are outright hostile, and I imagine that any line manager at Dell caught uttering them to his staff would be promptly escorted out the door by HR. Given that, the apology should have been issued in Dell’s normal press release channels, and not in the limited-viewership world of Google+.

However, in reading the comments threads on the various news articles about this, I’ve been struck by a lot of the commentary — from the doubting this-is-a-feminist-lie “show video or it didn’t happen”, to “women are biologically less fit to be in technology”. It makes me reflect upon my career in technology, the conferences I’ve been to, the client organizations that I’ve seen, and the way that I’ve been treated.

This is a shortened form of the much longer post that I originally wrote, in the interest of not writing an epic; I may post the rest separately at some later date, but for this, I’ll focus on just one observation.

Corporate Culture Makes a Crucial Difference

I’ve spent over a decade at Gartner, and I’ve dealt with an incredible array of IT organizations, and in each of those organizations, you’ll find a different attitude towards women — and therefore a different proportion of women, especially at the mid- and senior levels. (Note that I’m talking about the IT operations and development, excluding the admins, procurement, non-technical project managers, etc.)

However, in most of the IT organizations I’ve dealt with, there are either plenty of women, or there are a handful of women (maybe even zero or one woman in a technical role); there’s very little in-between. Note that this can be different in different parts of the organization; you might have a team that for whatever reason is particularly good at hiring and keeping women, but in general, if it’s just a team, that team is anomalous in an otherwise male organization.

For instance, there are a huge number of successful women in US federal government IT — and, for that matter, minorities historically severely underrepresented in IT (i.e., non-Asians). Rigorous nondiscrimination, along with the availability of successful mentors, leads to hiring and promoting women — in technical and technical management roles that require ‘hard’ skills as much or more than ‘soft’ skills. This includes places that you would normally expect to be male bastions, like the 3-letter agencies — and in traditionally enormously male-dominated specialties like InfoSec. Teams are mixed-gender and mixed-race; the balance suggests that these organizations attract an enormously disproportionately high percentage of qualified women and underrepresented minorities. My experience is that those people are just as competent, if not more so; quality is not being sacrificed, probably because they get a better hiring pool.

On the other hand, I’ve also visited a Fortune 500 company where the Gartner salesperson was explicitly told that they weren’t comfortable with a woman telling them what to do, and that we shouldn’t bring any more female analysts by to visit them — they said would rather deal with a man, even if that man did not have the same level of subject-matter expertise. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t meet a single woman in IT there. (That’s not an isolated incident; I have many more stories of this sort, although that one is notable because they had dealt with multiple superbly-expert female analysts.)

But most corporate cultures aren’t so blatant. Instead, there are subtle and not-so-subtle indicators about the degree to which women are welcome and respected; these messages come from the top, but may also be reflected in the culture of an individual team, especially given the attitude of a line manager, technical lead, or influential engineer. These things generally directly correlate to the probability of hiring, retaining, and promoting women.

I find it to be an interesting indicator of a company and individual’s assumptions when they’ve read my official Gartner bio (which emphasizes my background in operations and engineering) and how much they ‘talk down’ to me technically nevertheless — particularly when I frequently also had a male analyst colleague on the phone without a technical background, despite having the bios, there were still plenty of people who would de facto assume he was technical and I wasn’t. (Note to AR folks: I hate this.)

Conferences are one of those places where the company’s hidden attitudes come to light. Does the company make use of booth babes? Does the company respect a code of conduct that ensures that presentation material (including from outside speakers) doesn’t contain unprofessional imagery and examples? Is the entertainment particularly targeted towards men? (Note that yes, IT demographics encourage targeting men, but perpetrating this also ensures that it will remain men.) There are comfort things for women, as well — for instance, does the conference provide adequate security and response to harrassment?

And of course: Does your company CEO witness your company-hired entertainer make grotesquely offensive remarks, and not apologize instantly on behalf of your company, to your partners, clients, and employees, for having been party to this?

If you work in technology, regardless of whether you’re male or female, ask yourself: What do I really think about women in technology? And the lack of women in technical roles? How do my attitudes influence my actions, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways?

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